Our earliest evolutionary ancestor may have been found in the form of microscopic sponge-like organisms recently discovered inside extremely ancient African rocks. If that turns out to be so, it would displace animal life’s previous earliest known ancestor (unremarkably, another sponge-like “metazoan”) by predating it by perhaps 100 million years.
The small organisms, known as Otavia antiqua, were found inside of a 760-million-year-old rock in Namibia and could very well have been the first multicellular animals to emerge on the planet, researchers say. That means all animal life--from the precursors to the dinosaurs to the dinosaurs themselves to modern humans--could potentially draw a line straight back to Otavia. It also means that animal life likely emerged tens of millions of years earlier than we previously thought it did.